For the week ending 6 August 2005 / 1 Av 5765

Shabbat 93 - 99

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Become a Supporter Library Library
  • When it takes two to carry
  • Insignificance of a supporting role
  • Carrying a man or animal, alive or dead
  • Cutting nails and other forms of beautification
  • Milking, cheese-making and removing honey from its comb
  • Sweeping and dust control in the home
  • Status of the flowerpot, with or without a hole
  • How long a cracked vessel retains its status as a vessel
  • Throwing and handing objects from one domain to another
  • The sources for the prohibition on carrying
  • Mystery of the first Jew executed for Shabbat violation
  • The penalty for suspecting the innocent
  • Throwing farther or closer than intended
  • The wagons and boards of the Mishkan Sanctuary
  • From pit to surface carrying

Miracle Within a Miracle

  • Shabbat 97a

When Moshe was sent by G-d to command Pharaoh to send the Children of Israel out of Egypt, he was accompanied by his older brother Aharon who was to play an important role in this mission. Should the Egyptian ruler challenge them to provide some miraculous sign that they had indeed been Divinely sent, it was Aharons assignment to cast his staff in front of Pharaoh where it would turn into a serpent.

This was indeed done, but failed to convince Pharaoh who called upon his sorcerers to duplicate through black magic this same sort of transformation. They succeeded in doing so, but the Torah relates that "the staff of Aharon swallowed all of their staffs." (Shmot 7:12).

"This," says Rabbi Elazar, "was a miracle within a miracle."

Rashis explanation of the double miracle is based on the Torahs description of the staff swallowing all of the staffs rather than the serpent swallowing all of the serpents. Not only was there the miracle of the swallowing, but also that it took place after the serpents had reverted to staffs which are not naturally capable of ingesting.

Maharsha, however, offers a different explanation based on a Midrash. Reverting to a staff was indeed necessary in order to prevent Pharaoh from claiming that it is natural for a serpent to swallow others. But such swallowing of one staff of others should have produced a very thick staff. The fact that not only did an inanimate thing like Aharons staff do the swallowing but that no change was visible within it was literally "a miracle within a miracle".

What the Sages Say

"One guilty of wrongly suspecting an innocent person of wrongdoing is punished by Heaven with injury to his body. Moshe wrongly suspected his people of failing to believe that G-d sent him to liberate them from Egyptian bondage and was immediately struck with leprosy on his hand."

  • Rabbi Shimon Bar Lakish - Shabbos 97a

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